Guide to Practicing Medicine in Illinois

Illinois has something for everyone, including physicians looking to enjoy quiet, rural living or ones that want the excitement and culture of big-city life. And the state needs clinicians, which might mean an attractive doctor salary in Illinois.

Like many midwestern states, Illinois has a diverse landscape of farming communities such as Greenville and mid-sized cities like Peoria and Decatur. However, it is also home to one of the most populated cities in the country – Chicago.

A clinician looking to hang out a shingle can practice any kind of medicine they want. Living in this state is a chance to be anything from a rural family doctor to a trauma specialist. So what does it take to practice medicine in the Prairie State?

Why Practice Medicine in Illinois

Illinois provides plenty of opportunities for a physician looking to set up a practice. The state currently has a shortage of physicians. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is even setting up additional residency slots in Chicago and Peoria to attract new doctors to try to fill the void.

Those opportunities extend to location, as well. Illinois has a predominantly rural landscape. Rural communities are in desperate need of doctors. According to one report, these farming communities have 50 percent fewer physicians per capita than the cities. That is a problem some are willing to pay to fix. For a doctor looking to pay off loans, agreeing to settle in rural Illinois might come with an exciting salary package, including paying off school debt.

The state is also incentivizing residents to live in rural areas while they complete their training. Of course, they are free to leave after they finish their training. The communities hope many will stay, though.

Downsides to Practicing Medicine in Illinois

There are some downsides to living in the state of Illinois. One of the most pervasive is the cost of living. On average, it can be cheaper to live in Illinois than in other states, such as New York, though.

Crime is undoubtedly a factor in Illinois, too, especially in Chicago. The Windy City, known for its active gang population, is at the top of the nation in murders. Compare crime indices from the FBI for Chicago and NYC, and there is an obvious picture:

  • Violent crime — Chicago: 49.9 vs NYC: 28.2
  • Property crime – Chicago: 46.3 vs NYC: 24.9

Finally, the medical liability environment in Illinois is problematic. In 2010, the Illinois State Supreme Court removed the limits on how much a plaintiff could receive for non-economic damages they sue for malpractice. That might push malpractice insurance rates higher than in other parts of the country. Unfortunately, that might not be reflected in an Illinois doctor’s salary package.

Some doctors are stating that a large population of Medicaid patients is a reason they might leave Illinois. Medicaid can be slow to pay the bills, and they have restrictions that might affect how much they will pay.

The medical industry has shifted to a value-based payment system instead of per-service. That can limit how much a physician might be paid by The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services. So, if a practice has a large number of Medicaid or Medicare patients, it can impact cash flow.

Read This: What it Takes to be a Traveling Physician

What Are Doctor Salaries Like in Illinois?

Illinois is suffering from a shortage of physicians. That means there will be plenty of opportunities for clinicians looking to settle down. What can they expect if they do choose this state?

How Many Active Doctors Are in Illinois?

According to Beckers Hospital Review, as of 2022, Illinois had 37,122 active physicians. That is to treat a population of 12,671,821 residents or 293 per 100,000. In comparison, New York has a population of 19,453,561 and 75,749 active physicians. That equals 389 per 100,000 people.

On the other hand, Idaho has 3,504 functional doctors with a population of 1,787,065. That’s 196 per 100,000 residents.

What Is the Average Doctor Salary in Illinois?

Doctor salary in Illinois depends on several factors, such as location and specialty. reports the average base salary is $160,213 per year. Specialty plays a significant role in salary. For example,

Location is another critical factor. Doctors who choose to serve rural communities may have added benefits compared to one that works in Chicago.

Which Medical Specialties Are Needed Most in Illinois?

In major cities, there is a diverse range of medical specialties required. They need everything from emergency room physicians to primary care. However, universities such as Northwestern are looking to bring in more residents training in primary care.

The same is true for rural areas. They need clinicians that can handle almost any medical problem because patients likely have to travel to see a specialist. Therefore, rural areas are looking for family practice doctors and specialists in internal medicine.

Specialist care can be challenging to find in all areas of the state. Getting appointments with specialists like orthopedic physicians and surgeons can be difficult. A patient could wait weeks just for a consultation.

Moving? Read this: How Moving Can Help Physicians Pay Off Student Loans

Setting Up Practice in Illinois

Before choosing a state to practice in, there are several factors physicians need to consider. Looking at the big picture means making a decision based on fact. Doctor salary in Illinois is just one facet of income. Physicians also need to consider the cost of living and running a business.

What Business Formation Is Best For A Solo Practitioner

In most states, including Illinois, a sole proprietorship is the most efficient business structure for a solo practice. This option comes with a number of benefits. It makes federal taxes easier to file, for instance. The business is simply an extension of the proprietor. So all business debts and taxes are owed by one person.

A sole proprietorship is also not subject to corporate income tax. That means some business expenses for a corporation will not be available. Still, it is the cleanest structure for a small practice with just one proprietor. Opting for sole proprietorship will also let the doctor determine their salary in Illinois instead of working for someone else who sets the amount.

However, if there are two or more doctors, the best option is a partnership. This allows each stakeholder to share in the profits and debts equally. In addition, the doctors would have an equal doctor salary structure in Illinois.

State Taxes

There are several state tax categories that are important to physicians looking to live in Illinois, starting with individual taxes. The doctor’s salary may influence tax rates in Illinois, however.

Individual Taxes

The top individual income tax rate in Illinois is 4.95 percent. The state ranks 14 in State and Local individual tax collections and 11.1 percent in state and local tax burden. The combined state and local sale tax rate average out at 8.81 percent.

Property Tax

The property taxes are high compared to other states. For example, the Tax Foundation ranks Illinois as the second highest in the country for property taxes. The rate for owner-occupied housing is 2.08 percent.

Medical Malpractice Rates

Medical malpractice serves as professional liability insurance for physicians and other healthcare practitioners. The costs in Illinois and any other state will vary based on specialty and associated risk. It may also vary by location.

Consider some annual averages for rates in Illinois in 2020:

  • Cook County Obstetrician $179,497
  • Cook, Madison, St. Clair  County General Surgeon $205,380
  • Cook, Madison, St. Clair  County Internal medicine $41,272

Related: How to Get your Medical License in Illinois

Things Doctors Should Know About Illinois

Deciding to work in Illinois as a physician also means living there as a person and, possibly, a family. Before making that choice, knowing more about the state is helpful.

Noteworthy Schools In Illinois

There are some noteworthy schools to consider for a physician looking to bring or grow a family in Illinois.

Best School Districts

Identifying the best school districts in Illinois is an excellent place to start when searching for housing. Public School Review lists the top school districts as:

K-12 Schools

Certain public schools stand out, as well, based on math and reading scores, such as:

Medical Schools

When just starting a medical career, the focus may be more on what medical school to attend in the state. Some options include:

Areas of Interest in Illinois

Of course, when people talk about visiting Illinois, most are headed for Chicago. It is the country’s third most populous city. Sitting on the shores of Lake Michigan, it is home to a magnificent waterfront and pier. It is a city alive with culture, fine restaurants, and art. There are exciting places to see outside of Chicago, too.

Abraham Lincoln

While exploring the state, it’s worth visiting Lincoln’s Tomb in Springfield, for example. While in the area, make sure to see Lincoln’s Presidential Library, which includes reenactments of the great man’s life.

lincoln tomb

Starved Rock State Park

Nature lovers will want to spend time in Starved Rock State Park. Located just outside Utica, this is one of Illinois’ hidden gems full of waterfalls, canyons, and hiking trails.


Anderson Japanese Gardens

Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford is a popular tourist stop for travelers seeking a peaceful environment. Built by famed landscape designer Hoichi Kurisu, this garden contains all the essential elements: stone, water, and plants.

anderson japanese gardens


The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle is a kind attraction located in Collinsville. It’s not the most well-known tourist spot, but it is fun.


Top Cities to Live in Illinois

Choosing the right state is only half the battle when contemplating where to work as a physician. The state of Illinois is home to 1,456 towns.. Finding the right one to call home can take time, especially when looking at factors such as doctor salaries in Illinois. What are some of the top cities to consider?


Offering the most diverse opportunities in the state, Chicago is an obvious choice. Chicago is also home to some top medical schools and the number one hospital in Illinois – Northwestern Memorial.

The city is a cultural mecca with bold architecture, an effective mass transportation system, and plenty to see. In addition, it is known for its theater district and hosts some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country.

Suburbs surround Chicago for a physician who wants to live and raise a family outside the city. Many of those suburbs rank high for education and low for crime.



Known for its surreal lifestyle, Springfield is much smaller than Chicago. Springfield is ranked by Tourpia as one of the best cities to live in the state because it is a slice of history. Springfield is also home to the SIU School of Medicine and three universities.

springfield- il


With a population of 149,913, Naperville is a popular spot for young professionals and a great place to raise a family. In addition, it sits on the western edge of Chicago, which means a doctor living there could easily commute into the city.

Naperville is known for its riverwalk along the banks of the DuPage River. It is also near Centennial Beach for families that want to enjoy swimming and water sports.



Maywood serves as a bedroom town for the Chicago Metropolitan area for those looking for the highest doctor salary in Chicago. With just over 23,000 citizens, it is an ideal choice for an urban doctor that wants to live in a small town. It is serviced by the Metra commuter railroad for an easy ride into the city. It is also just off Interstate 290 for professionals who want to drive to work daily.

Maywood has a unique historical significance too. It served as a station for the Underground Railroad, providing a safe haven for slaves escaping to freedom. As a result, it is full of century-old homes that give the town a historic feel.


Read this: Experts Weigh in on the Future of Healthcare in the Next 30 Years

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, practicing medicine in Illinois provides a physician with a wide range of opportunities. There are mainstream urban hospitals for the practitioners that want that fast-paced lifestyle and rural towns that need primary-care doctors. Whether you’re a seasoned physician or a medical student planning to start your career, understanding the dynamic healthcare environment in Illinois is crucial. By leveraging this knowledge, physicians can make informed decisions to thrive in their careers and contribute to the well-being of the communities they serve.

Still deciding where to go? Read our Top 10 Places to Live & Work and consult our Annual Physician Compensation Report to help with your decision.

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